the Best in Kerouac & the Beats, Adventure, Politics, Music, Movies, Poetry & other Lifejoys

Brianland header image 1

Holly George-Warren Jack Kerouac biography

June 9th, 2021 · Interviews, Kerouac and The Beats

In some of the best news in Beatlandia in many a year — it’s just been announced that (A) the Kerouac estate has signed the inimitable Holly George-Warren to be the official biographer of Jack — a role originally filled by Doug Brinkley back in the ’90s until he got lured away by some other beatniks of history.  And (B) the book — working title Jack Kerouac: A Writer’s Life — has just been signed to Viking Press — the original publisher of On The Road, and which has become home to most all of Kerouac’s 50 different books in print.

And speaking of books in print, Holly has a ton of them herbadself — Janis: Her Life and Music (2019);  A Man Called Destruction: The Life & Music of Alex Chilton (2014);  Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues (2011);  The Cowgirl Way: Hats Off to America’s Women of The West (2010);  The Road to Woodstock (with Michael Lang, 2009);  Grateful Dead 365 (2008);  Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life & Times of Gene Autry (2007);  Punk 365 (2007);  Honky-Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music (2006);  The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (2005);  The Appalachians: America’s First and Last Frontier (2004);  Cowboy, How Hollywood Invented The Wild West (2002);  How The West Was Worn (2001);  The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats (1999) . . . 


Holly rockin her ’57 Fender Jazzmaster with Das Furlines, 1987


In the Full Disclosure Department — Holly and I met in the East Village in the mid-’90s when we were both Howling there, and we connected over a love of the still-vibrant downtown music & arts scene, with an undercurrent of us both being able to talk Beats and beats by the hour.

When The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats first hatched over at Rolling Stone with Holly at the helm, we had about a thousand conversations about it as it grew from an idea into one of the most inclusive & complete portraits of the Beats ever created.

And now 20-sumpthin years later — a similar movie has just been green-lit!  And this one no less than Jack’s official biopic!  And thank gawd the screenplay didn’t go to some agenda pimp or academic wanker, but to an experienced cinematographer biographer with a passion for Jack and a fresh (and female!) perspective.

So I took this exploding-like-spiders-across-the-stars moment to catch up with Holly and get summa the deets — 

Why the heck does the world need another Kerouac biography?  What’s gonna be different about this one?

I hope to find buried treasures during a very long, in-depth search in the archives that shed new light on Kerouac’s writing process and life and thought process.  I’ll be looking at his life & work through a 21st century lens — and I’ll be bringing a fresh perspective to his oeuvre and the story of his life.

What does an “estate-sanctioned” biography mean, exactly?

The Kerouac estate and their literary agent reached out to me last fall after reading Janis.  They said they hoped I would apply the same research, storytelling and contemporary viewpoint to Jack that I brought to Janis.  They offered me complete access to the estate-controlled archives, and permission to quote from any of the personal papers etc., but with no controls or editorial approvals over my manuscript.  I got my literary agent involved and we have a contractual agreement to that effect.

This is also the agreement I had with the Joplin and Autry estates.  I would not embark on a biography like this without that autonomy being guaranteed in writing.  I included this in the very lengthy book proposal that I worked on for months, and my agent conducted an auction with numerous publishers bidding, and I decided on Paul Slovak at Viking.  It was so heartening to get so much interest from some amazing editors at a number of publishing houses!

Cool!  That’s a great story unto itself!  What did you take from doing The Rolling Stone Book of The Beats that made you wanna dig into Jack more?

That was my favorite of the 40+ books I put together while I was the Director/Editor of Rolling Stone Press from 1993-2001.  It was the project that I was passionate enough about that it lured me back to work after my son Jack was born in 1998.  In 1999, he got to accompany me and my husband on my book tour and at events with the book’s contributors.  That was his third or fourth road trip, at age 1.  The book was such a joy to put together — to commission writing from and getting to meet Joyce Johnson, Ann Charters, Carolyn Cassady, Ann Douglas, Hettie Jones, and other great writers like you, Brian! 

When I was in college at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, my professor Gordon Ball brought Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and William Burroughs to campus.  I went to their readings and we got to meet them afterwards.  I’d also just seen Bob Dylan and Patti Smith for the first time – and knew I had to move to NYC!

Wow!  You had Gordon Ball as a professor!  Amazing.  Perfect.  To play on John Leland’s book title — why does Kerouac matter?

No other 20th century writer shaped the American imagination more than Jack Kerouac.  His musical ear and literary innovations inspired four generations of readers, writers and musicians.

Being a woman, will you have a different approach than your many male counterparts to include all the many women who knew Jack well and left behind their own illuminating memoirs?

In his novels, many of the female characters appear to need rescuing.  But in real life, Jack seemed to be attracted to strong, independent, brilliant women.  I’m really looking forward to exploring those relationships.

What are some of your favorite Jack books?

I’ve read On The Road four or five times, beginning when I was 16 — so it has a very special meaning for me.  I also love The Subterraneans, Big Sur and The Dharma Bums.  I’m really looking forward to revisiting all his other work and doing a deep dive.

Ouuu — Subterraneans!  Beautiful!  If he didn’t have that Charlie Parker soloing stretch in his repertoire, I don’t know if I’d be as blown away by his skills as I am.  Well, that and Old Angel Midnight.  But I digress.  🙂  How did he affect your life personally?

He completely opened my mind to a whole other life that existed outside of my small hometown in North Carolina.  When I saw in one of his notebooks on view at an exhibit that he possibly drove by my house on one of his road trips — I grew up on a highway that he would have taken to get to his next stop — that blew my mind!  I fantasized that I was climbing the maple tree in my front yard in the early ’60s when the car he was in drove by.

His work made me want to be a writer, to travel, to learn about Buddhism, about people unlike myself — and I started hitchhiking, too.  The longest distance was from North Carolina to Florida.  But I mostly just hitched around North Carolina.

Besides the themes in his writing and the adventures in On The Road, his work inspired me to pursue a life of experience outside “my safety zone” — so I did lots of traveling in North America, South America and Europe — but also did lots of “mind traveling,” too.  In my early music writing, I mimicked his style to an extent until I found my own voice.

Wow!  Great!  I love the maple tree in the front yard.  You and Canada waving at Jack!  🙂  When will people be able to climb into the branches of this book?

It’s targeted for 2025.

Man — that sounds like some science fiction date in the future.  I can’t even grasp that I’ll be alive in 2025.  But I’m so glad we both are now.  And, boy, there’s nobody I’d rather have at the helm of this book than you. 

Thanks so much, Brian.  You and I will both be kickin’ up our heels in 2025!  There’s an amazing adventure ahead between now and then.

And awaaay we go!!  🙂 



at The Mothership in Woodstock in 2016

A couple of authors at The Mothership in Woodstock, 2016



Here’s my Rolling Stone Book of the Beats piece on “Abstract Expressionism: From Bird to Brando — the halftime show of the century!  1945 to 1955.”

And here’s the other one on “Floating Universities: The Power of the Collective in Art.”

Here’s where you can get my book — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s the tale of Jack’s 100th birthday celebrations in Lowell in 2022, including lots of Holly George-Warren.

Here’s a piece on what it’s like at the annual Woodstock of Jack — the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival.

Here’s the time John Cassady & I teamed up there doing our Jack & Neal show.

Here’s a great piece on the first photographs ever to emerge of legendary Beat Bill Cannastra’s mythological loft — where Kerouac found his scroll writing paper … and his wife.

And speaking of amazing uncovered photographs — here’s the only unstaged photograph known to exist of Jack Kerouac actually writing at a typewriter, which came to light in late 2019.

And here’s some interviews and such I’ve done on Jack over the years.

Here’s a video of some On The Road — scored with David Amram’s accompaniment — at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac . . .


Or here’s bringing the cool bus chapter from Kerouac’s Pic to life at LCK . . .



by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —

→ 14 CommentsTags: ·····

Stopping and Staying Stopped Smoking

May 31st, 2021 · Real-life Adventure Tales

Stay Stopped Smoking


For all my friends who struggle . . .

These are the handwritten notes I’d read any time I was feeling an urge: 

Whatever’s bothering you will NOT be made better by drawing smoke into your tender  living lungs.

Drawing smoke into your lungs doesn’t make anything better.

Don’t die for something you don’t even want to do.

I LOVE gaining the money I save each day.  Don’t blow that.

I don’t want my house and car and clothes stinking of cigarette smoke like some completely lacking in discipline loser.

I don’t want to be a slave to something I don’t want to do.

Do not voluntarily draw the smoke from burning leafs and chemicals into your tender lungs and body.

You are not a smoker.

Don’t put your mouth on the end of an exhaust pipe.

Picture Alex Grey’s paintings of our blessed tender life-giving organs. Do NOT voluntarily destroy those beautiful organs with vicious chemical smoke.

I don’t want to wake up wheezing and hacking horkers into a sink.

Smoking is literally killing me.

I want more time in my days.  And I get so much more somehow when I’m not smoking.

I want to go visit people as a non-smoker.

I don’t want to be a weak-willed LOSER.

Save $30 a day (including on beer) to spend on needed items.

Give yourself something to be proud of.

Everyone else finds them disgusting.  Don’t be a loser doing something disgusting that you hate.

I could have bought a new furnace for free with what I spent on something that’s killing me.

I want to see how more of this movie (life) turns out — all the stories playing out in the world.  Live to see what happens, man.

Don’t jones to go out at night cuz you ran out of cigarettes.

Don’t give The Addition Rat inside you water and sustenance.

You think you want a cigarette, but you really don’t.

Shortness of breath . . . trouble breathing . . . chest pains . . . heart palpitations.

You’d rather not smoke than smoke; you’d rather be a non-smoker than a smoker.

You won’t feel better buying a pack of cigarettes — you’ll feel worse.

Smoking does NOT make me feel BETTER.

NOT smoking DOES make me feel better.

I definitely get more work done per day when NOT smoking.

I’d rather get one new book or DVD of my choice every single day than buy packs of dead leafs to burn and draw into my body.

I like myself more — and how I fill my days — when I’m not smoking.

Don’t blow your quit streak for one moment of misguided desire.

I like myself better when I’m not smoking.

I like the way my brain works better when I’m not smoking.

Having a cigarette does not solve ANYthing.

Those things are disgusting.  No wonder that’s what so many nonsmokers say.  Phucking repulsive.

I don’t want to be a smoker.


Another trick:

Write a list of both friends and famous people you admire who don’t smoke.  😉

And write a list of people you know who died of lung cancer.

You can add George Harrison, Johnny Carson, Yul Brynner, Lucille Ball, Walt Disney, Nat King Cole, Joe DiMaggio, Michael Landon, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Betty Grable, Babe Ruth, Suzanne Pleshette, Peter Jennings, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, David Bowie . . .

Here’s a full list of 227 famous people:



And speaking of lists — here’s the most complete list on the internet of Famous People Who Never Had Kids.

Or here’s a cool one of Famous Americans Who Were Not Born in America.

Or here’s another power of the mindset piece — The Spilled Coffee Test.

Or here’s a nice general inspiration piece — Be The Invincible Spirit You Are.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —

→ 12 CommentsTags:

The Play’s The Thing

April 30th, 2021 · New York City, Real-life Adventure Tales

The Play’s The Thing

113 different Playbills that survived.

An approximate history of my life in theater audiences . . .

Some of the highlights . . . which you can see the Playbills of in chronological order starting at the top . . .

Mousetrap — London — 1972 — the longest running play in the history of the planet, opened in 1952, never closed until the pandemic of 2020 — 68 years.

Sleuth — London — 1972 — sat in the Queen’s private box (with its own bathroom) because our seats had been sold twice and the other people arrived first.

Hair — London — 1972, in the Shaftesbury Theater where it first premiered with Tim Curry in 1972

Harvey with James Stewart — London, 1975 — the first time I experienced a standing ovation.

The Elephant Man with David Bowie in the title role — Broadway, Dec. 3rd, 1980 – five nights before John Lennon was shot dead. (!)

Napoleon — Radio City Music Hall, Jan. 1981 – the restored 3-screen 1927 movie with a full orchestra playing a score composed by Carmine Coppola, Francis’s father.

Amadeus — Broadway, Feb. 1981 — long before there was a movie of it, with Tim Curry in the title role, plus Ian McKellen & Jane Seymour.

Private Lives — Broadway, June 1983 — Noel Coward’s comedy about a divorced couple, featuring divorced couple Liz Taylor & Richard Burton.

Glengarry Glen Ross — Broadway, March 1984 — David Mamet’s masterpiece, with Joe Mantegna & J.T. Walsh.

Death of a Salesman — Broadway, June 1984 — Arthur Miller’s masterpiece, with Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich & Kate Reid.

Balm In Gilead — Off-Broadway, 1984 — Steppenwolf production of Lanford Wilson’s play about the Greenwich Village underworld, John Malkovich directing, Laurie Metcalf’s mesmerizing 20-minute monologue in second act. It played at the Minetta Lane Theatre, five minutes from where I lived on Washington Square North and I second-acted it probably a half-dozen times just to see her monologue. Also saw it at Circle In The Square at Sheridan Square with Malkovich filling in for one of the roles.

Hurlyburly — Broadway, 1984 — saw it’s first production directed by Mike Nichols, with William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Harvey Keitel, Ron Silver, Jerry Stiller, Judith Ivy, and Cynthia Nixon, who was also in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing two blocks away, also directed by Nichols. Her character in Hurlyburly appears at the beginning and end of the play, and she only had one scene in middle of The Real Thing, and she’d literally run between the two theaters and was appearing in two Broadway plays at the same time!

Back Bog Beast Bait, Suicide in B Flat, and Angel City all by Sam Shepard — Off-Off-Broadway in repertory at La Mama in the East Village, Dec. 1984, with Max Roach playing the music.

Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill — Broadway, 1985 — with Glenda Jackson.

Fool For Love — Off-Broadway, 1985 — written & directed by Sam Shepard.

Orphans — Off-Broadway, 1985 — Steppenwolf production, Gary Sinise directing, starring Gary Cole (!), music by Pat Metheny.

Arms & The Man — Broadway, 1985 — George Bernard Shaw’s play, directed by and starring John Malkovich, with Raul Julia & Glenne Headly.

Curse of The Starving Class — Off-Broadway, 1985 — by Sam Shepard, starring Bradley Whitford.

The Caretaker — Broadway, 1985 — Steppenwolf production of Harold Pinter’s play, directed by John Malkovich, starring Gary Sinise and Jeff Perry.

Drinking In America — Off-Broadway, 1986 — Eric Bogosian’s one-man play.

A Lie of The Mind — Off-Broadway, 1986 — Sam Shepard’s play, with Harvey Keitel, Aiden Quinn, Amanda Plummer, Will Patton & James Gammon.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night — Broadway, 1986 — Eugene O’Neill’s play, staring Jack Lemmon, with Kevin Spacey & Peter Gallagher as the sons.

Cuba & His Teddy Bear — Broadway, 1986 — Robert De Niro, Ralph Macchio & Burt Young; had long talk with Joseph Papp while waiting to buy tickets.

I’m Not Rappaport — Broadway, 1986 — Hal Linden, Ossie Davis, Mercedes Ruehl.

The House of Blue Leaves — Broadway, 1986 — John Guare’s play, with Danny Aiello, Christine Baranski, Swoosie Kurtz & Patricia Clarkson.

My Gene — Off-Broadway, Public Theatre, 1987 – Colleen Dewhurst’s powerful one-woman show as Eugene O’Neill’s last wife who is going mad.

Mort Sahl On Broadway — 1987 — great one-man standup show with newspaper under his arm.

Burn This — Broadway, 1987 — Lanford Wilson’s play with John Malkovich & Joan Allen.

Waiting For Godot — Off-Broadway, 1988 — Beckett’s classic with Robin Williams & Steve Martin, and Bill Irwin as Lucky. Directed by Mike Nichols.  Saw it twice in the tiny 300-seat Mitzi Newhouse theater at Lincoln Center.

Twelfth Night — Shakespeare in the Park, 1989 — with Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Goldblum, Gregory Hines, John Amos, Fisher Stevens, Stephen Collins, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Saw twice.

States of Shock — Broadway, 1991 — by Sam Shepard, starring John Malkovich.

Man of La Mancha — Broadway, 1992 — Raul Julia & Sheena Easton.

A Streetcar Named Desire — Broadway, 1992 — Alec Baldwin (who was GREAT and funny (!) as Stanley), Jessica Lange, Amy Madigan, James Gandolfini, Aida Turturro.

Death and The Maiden — Broadway, 1992 — Glenn Close, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman — great drama.

Abe Lincoln in Illinois — Broadway, Lincoln Center, 1993 — Sam Waterston.

Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead — Off-Broadway, Minetta Lane Theater, 1994 — Eric Bogosian one-man show, absolutely hilarious.

SubUrbia — Off-Broadway, 300-seat Mitzi Newhouse at Lincoln Center, 1994 — original production with Steve Zahn, Martha Plimpton, Josh Hamilton.

The Tempest — Shakespeare in the Park, 1995 — Patrick Stewart, Bill Irwin.

Mrs. Klein — Off-Broadway, 1996 — Uta Hagen & Amy Wright (who both lived in my building at 27 Washington Square North).

Demonology — Off-Broadway, 1996 — play about temping when my book came out about temping, with Marisa Tomei.

Capeman — Broadway, 1998 — Paul Simon’s musical, with Ruben Blades & Marc Anthony.

Cabaret — Broadway, in the former Studio 54, 1999 — Alan Cumming in his Tony-winning role as the emcee, plus Mary McCormick & Blair Brown, and Jenna Elfman pulled out of the audience into some on-stage improv with Cumming.

James Joyce’s The Dead — Broadway, 2000 — Christopher Walken.

True West — Broadway, Circle In The Square, 2000 — Philip Seymour Hoffman & John C. Reilly alternating roles each night. I saw it twice, once each way. Both mind-blowing.

Eddie Izzard’s Circle — Broadway, Town Hall, 2000 — one-man standup, saw twice, very different and equally insanely funny.

Rocky Horror Picture Show — Broadway, Circle In the Square, 2000 — Joan Jett & Dick Cavett.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest — Broadway, 2001 — Ken Kesey’s novel staged as a play.  Gary Sinise as Randal Patrick McMurphy.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ — Broadway, 2006 — Twyla Tharp interprets the songs of Bob Dylan, went with Walter R.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night — London West End, summer of 2012 — David Suchet & Laurie Metcalf – power black-out mid-play, couldn’t get restored, given refund, then I went back and second-acted it for free. 🙂

The Taming of The Shrew — Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London, summer 2012 — unbelievably great, took tour of theatre in afternoon, then drank with the whole cast on an outdoor terrace after the show.

The Secret Space of Dreams — Stable Studios, Spencer, Indiana — a Prankster production, written by Spirit and Marz, I played “Jack”.

The Secret Space of Is — Wonderland, Indiana, 2017 — I did the “Historian” introduction.

Red Roses, Green Gold — Off-Broadway, Minetta Lane Theatre, 2017 — once with Sky, George & Levi Asher, then again with Sky & Prankster Tricia; hung with music supervisor Jeff Chimenti and librettist Michael Mann both times. Plus danced in the aisles and became friendly with the cast.


For an even cooler list, check out this list of top 300 films — all sorted by categories, including by Auteur, and all linked to their imdb page.

Or here’s a tribute to the woman who first turned me onto theater and I attended more with than any other human.

Here’s a great Adventure Tale — including tons of photos — of going to Shakespeare’s Globe in London for a spectacular Taming of the Shrew.

Or here’s a vivid account of that very theatrical Prankster production when the clowns all put on a circus.

Or here’s an Adventure Review of the Grateful Dead-based musical Red Roses, Green Gold.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —

→ 2 CommentsTags: ·········································

Beat Versus Beatnik

March 3rd, 2021 · Kerouac and The Beats

21st Century Beatniks
Hieroglyphic Caricatures


There’s long been a debate about the word “beatnik” — originally coined by a sensationalist San Francisco gossip columnist in 1958, playing on the Yiddish suffix “nik” and the first Russian satellite launched in September ’57, colloquially known as “Sputnik.”  Jack and Allen & company hated the word back in the day as it was a pejorative noun for the cliché of unemployed do-nothing scatterbrain dropouts that the older generation thought anyone who read On the Road or Howl must be.

But over the decades, the caricature has faded away.  The goofy poster-child beatnik, Maynard G. Krebs, played by Bob Denver on TV’s Dobie Gillis show, went off the air in 1963, nearly 60 years ago.  In more recent decades the word has evolved into simply becoming shorthand for “the Beat Generation writers” … which is 27 letters and eight syllables … versus “beatnik” which is seven and two.  That’s really why the evolution happened. 🙂  It’s just shorter and simpler.

Personally, I prefer, and use, “Beat.”  And over the decades, I’ve explained the difference between “Beat” and “beatnik” to innumerable people — but for the last many years I get a blank stare back.  People don’t know what I’m talking about.  And they don’t care.  It’s getting to be — What’s the point?  Just about nobody anymore even knows there ever was a negative connotation to the word.  It might be a good idea to stop keeping alive some interpretation that ceased to exist way back in the early sixties.


Some old-school Beat Gen peeps still hate it — but these days when most writers and reviewers and journalists and scholars and historians use “beatnik” they’re referring to Kerouac, Ginsberg & company in as favorable a light as any of the old hardcores see them.  People have forgotten the goatee goofball cliché — but remember the god-sent groundbreaking geniuses.

It’s only people who hold onto this ancient hieroglyphic caricature of “beatnik” who are offended.  Nobody else even knows it existed.  Except when one of these old-timers brings it up!  🙂

The cliché is a dinosaur — bones in an empty museum nobody visits.  I’ve been going to beatnik events pretty regularly all over North America and Europe for 40 years and don’t remember ever meeting one of these clichés even once.  They don’t exist.

The word is not going to be banished from our lexicon — so we’ve just got to embrace it, own it, and make sure the modern usage embodies the best of what being Beat is: openness in written language, honesty, sympathy, optimism, environmental respect, the value of the individual, advocating for and practicing a life of creativity and self-expression, embracing adventure, saying “Yes!” more than “no,” working together with like-minded explorers, and creating art out of one’s own life experiences.

Another thing that Beat or beatnik means is — hard work.

The idea of beatniks being lazy is 180 degrees off the mark.  Kerouac has over 50 different books in print — and he died at age 47.  Gawd knows how many poems Allen Ginsberg wrote in his 70 years but there are dozens of volumes full of them — not to mention his nonstop public appearances.  William Burroughs wrote 15 novels, 25 novellas, and there’s 15 books of his letters, journals and interviews.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti opened a bookstore and publishing house, nurtured both for decades, and both are still thriving 70 years later.  Across the street, the Beat Museum has become an institution in San Francisco since 2006 because of the hard work put in by the founders and employees every day since.  And besides everything else Allen did, he also founded a university in Boulder in 1974 along with Anne Waldman that has employed hundreds of teachers and taught thousands of students.

These are not do-nothing bohemians.

Beatnik is cool.  Beatnik is a good thing.

Jerry Garcia & Janis Joplin, who were both living in the city where the word was coined, called themselves “beatniks” until the day they died.  In fact, one of the very last letters Janis ever wrote was to her confrère Myra Friedman at Albert Grossman’s office in New York saying, “I finally remembered that I was a beatnik.”

I just got off the phone with S.A. Griffin, a lifelong Beat poet & practitioner, who casually referred to our collective as “beatniks.”  He didn’t mean it as a pejorative any more than Barack Obama did when he referred to the Beats in his 2020 A Promised Land memoir as “beatniks.”

The Beat Museum called the last big Beat summit ever staged “The Beatnik Shindig” and the museum sure as hell doesn’t look down on the Beat writers or practitioners.

The fact that anyone uses that word should not be misconstrued as an insult.

Diane Di Prima, the great writer, teacher & spirit-force who was part of the scene since the late ’50s and stayed part of it until her passing in 2020, called her autobiography Memoirs of a Beatnik.

When Helen Weaver, the esteemed translator and Kerouac’s girlfriend in 1956, wrote her earnest autobiography, The Awakener, published by City Lights Books in 2009, she referred to herself and all the old gang getting back together for the NYU conference in 1994 by writing, “we beatniks are senior citizens.”  She dates back to before the term was coined, and lived through all the decades afterwards, and when she was summing up her life with Allen & Gregory & company, she herself described their collective as “beatniks.”

Ed Sanders, who, sitting next to Jack on stage on the William Buckley show called him “A great poet,” titled his book Tales of Beatnik Glory not Tales of Beat Glory.

In photographer, scholar, professor & Beat confidant Gordon Ball’s excellent memoir East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg, he describes his journey’s motivation as a search of  “the streets of San Francisco for beatniks.”

On Donovan’s joyous 2004 tribute album Beat Cafe, he climaxes the title song by singing “beatnik café” over and over — not “beat café.”

Jonah Raskin, who many know for his books on Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman & others, and for being the book reviewer at the San Francisco Chronicle for years, just referred to himself as a “beatnik” in his tribute to Ferlinghetti.

The esteemed film scholar and New York Times reviewer Elvis Mitchell astutely connected the main characters in Tarantino’s recent masterpiece Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to the beatniks in a way I didn’t even think of — prompting both Brad Pitt and Quentin to riff on it – Brad in depth – there’s “no hassle in the castle, man” – then Quentin, impromptu, revealing his knowledge of Jack & “the holy goof.”


Since roughly 2019 there’s been a big Kerouac & Kesey fan in the writers’ room at the gold standard of gameshows, Jeopardy, with an inordinate number of clues where the answer was “Who is Jack Kerouac?”  And that erudite hardcore Beat insider reaching 10 million viewers an episode knows that “beatnik” is not a pejorative.

Jeopardy, July 8th, 2021

There’s been a billion negative portrayals of “hippies” over the last 50 years.  In fact, that word started out, like “beatnik,” as a putdown – as in – these people are not “hip” – they’re baby hip wannabes – teenyboppers – hippies … babiesBut that doesn’t make hippies or the word or idea uncool in my book.  I’m a hippie.  “Hippies” have been most of my best friends for the last 50 years.

Just because the straight world tries to co-opt and brand us with a pejorative doesn’t mean they win the definition.

1950s puritans tried to ban Howl — and that only ended up making it world famous.  The government developed LSD for possible mind-control of enemies … until a few Pranksters got a hold of it and turned on the world.  The establishment tried to pimp propaganda like Reefer Madness — and reefer is now legal or decriminalized in 44 states and the entire country of Canada.  When the straight-streets attempt to redefine our world and mores in their warped vision, it doesn’t work out so well for them.  The truth, and what is right and good, wins out in the end.  The old world establishment wanted to keep Blacks at different lunch counters, women in the kitchen, and gays out of wedding chapels.  And similarly, the world has moved on from their attempted putdown of “beatniks” to where the term now refers to the influential writers who are still affecting the world decades after their passing — and no one even remembers who the putdown bigmouths were.

English is a very malleable and constantly evolving language.  Think of the gazillion words that all mean such different things today than they did back in the 1950s when “beatnik” was first used — “gay” … “hipster” … “trip” … “crack” … “cookies” … “eggs” … “shade” … “gaslight” … “ghost” … “woke” … “cancel”  — and the point was proven this past week in the global flurry of heartfelt tributes after Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s passing.  When journalists, poets, scholars and fans worldwide used “beatnik” while gushing their praise on the publisher of the Beats and host of their clubhouse in North Beach, City Lights Books, they were not implying a long-forgotten cliché, but rather referencing the most respected & recognizable group of his peers.

If you polled a thousand North Americans about the meaning of the word “beatnik” I bet less than 1% would identify it as the cartoon cliché of the late ’50s & early ’60s — and the vast majority who ever heard the word would say it meant a group of writers from 1950s.

To this day, I meet people who are Beat and have never read a word of any of them.  I’ve never met a “beatnik.”

It’s a mindset.

When Ken Kesey was asked, “How does somebody become a Prankster?” he answered, “We just recognize each other.”

Merry Prankster Anonymous with On The Road‘s Big Ed Dunkel

Rather than poo-poo the term — one that is already accepted — we need to embrace it.  Wear it.  There shouldn’t be a negative knee-jerk reaction every time a person uses that word as though they are intending to denigrate the writers of the Beat Generation — because they aren’t.

We’re now decades into the 21st century, and the word is simply a commonly accepted term for the collective.

If somebody wants to call me a “beatnik” – fine.  We’re good people.

I’m a 21st century beatnik . . . and havin a helluva high time.  

Instead of a pocket notebook we’ve got pocket phones.  Instead of hitchhiking Route 66, we’re surfing the information superhighway.  What was once black & white has become full swirling psychedelic color.  Poetry readings at cafés can now reach the whole world with live-streaming video.  Instead of throwing up on peyote, we can micro-dose on locally-grown magic mushrooms.  And marijuana comes in a thousand flavors!

Those old beatniks would be ecstatic to see all the evolutions and modernizations — including of language — of the worlds they first celebrated.  We’re still going Furthur . . . and . . . 

Blessed are the Beatniks.



In furthur reading — here’s a great piece about the only photograph ever found of Kerouac actually writing at the typewriter — in Provincetown, 1950.

Or here’s another photo discovery story from the same year — this one of the infamous Bill Cannastra loft in Chelsea where Jack met his wife and found the scroll paper he’d use to write On The Road.

Or here’s a little sumpthin on how the Grateful Dead became Jack manifested as music.

Or here’s where you can read a whole book about following your dreams to the living rooms of your heroes in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Or here’s where you can check out how those pesky beatniks ended up influencing those merry pranksters.

Or here’s where you can read a whole bunch of adventure tales about that Cassady clan from New York to Hollywood to England.

Or here’s where you can read a bunch of Beats and Pranksters raving about the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac book about the history-changing 1982 super-summit in Boulder.
Or there’s more here.  Or even more here!


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —

→ 28 CommentsTags: ·························

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is Dead, Long Live Lawrence Ferlinghetti!

February 28th, 2021 · Kerouac and The Beats, Poetry

(collage and poem by S.A. Griffin)


Lawrence Ferlinghetti is Dead, Long Live Lawrence Ferlinghetti!


Howling Allen Ginsberg
got shot out of history’s atomic canon
and never stopped flying
Ferlinghetti prints the poem as news hysterical naked
and gets busted for publishing obscene odes

the law fought the poem and the poem won

without this greeting at such great beginning
there would be no Beat Generation heard ‘round the world
and I would have descended a very different staircase
and would not know my wife
nor most all my friends

Ferlinghetti climbs down from the gaunt tree of war
and with his poet’s eye sees fists of Hiroshima and Nagasaki blossoms
shadowboxing in the dark and declares god
a fraternity of one hung up on eternity
a frightened lonely child
pissing himself

the poet’s dog lifting his leg knows
that democracy is deconstructionist porn
for masturbating objectivists
and as of this writing
the poet himself has shed his bony skin
and is no longer making this carnival scene

and from those of us here
still snapping in ripe time
most gratefully and lovingly we bid you
good night sweet paperback prince
may choirs of scat seraphim
sing thee to thy authentic angel headed rest
everything ends lost and found
as rebirth and revolutionary wonder

         Oh, man!

S.A. Griffin

→ No CommentsTags: ···

En-Cora-gement: Give The Kids The Vote – by Dale Topham

January 31st, 2021 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics

Here’s a beautiful inspiring story about proactively engaging young people in democracy.  And I mean young people under 18!

It’s a story about generosity and generations, empowerment and inclusion, doing the right thing, and putting your good where it will do the most (as Ken Kesey used to advise).

It’s told by a fellow Canadian Prankster Brother who’s technically named Dale Topham, but is known in preferred circles as “Gubba” — which this New Yorker expanded to “Gubba Gubba Hey!” to refrain a certain hometown punk band.

As Brutha Gubba tells it . . .

In the most recent Canadian election [2019], I let my 11-year-old granddaughter, Cora, choose how I would cast my ballot.

It started because I was in an unusual muddle about whom to vote for.  I generally vote Liberal in Canadian elections.  In 1963, my first time voting, I supported Lester B. Pearson, then became a full-fledged member of Trudeau-mania (for Justin’s father Pierre).  Since then I don’t believe I ever cast a federal vote for anyone but a Liberal, right up to supporting Justin Trudeau his first time out in 2015.

But Justin disappointed me in spades.  Once he was elected he changed 180 degrees from opposing to supporting the Trans Mountain Pipeline [bringing dirty tar sands oil across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean].  And then he used political pressure to intercede in a case against a Quebec-based construction company.

It was clear to me that for the first time in my life, I would not be voting Liberal.

To muddy the waters further, our Liberal candidate, Terry Beech, was far and away the best choice of those running in my riding!  He’s a hard working young man who’s on the right side of all the issues I care about, but all he could do was promise to apply whatever pressure he could when those issues were discussed.

When the election was called, the Conservative candidate was Heather Leung. About a week into the campaign, some film surfaced of her making extreme anti-gay remarks from a Christian religious right point of view. They were so bad that she was kicked out of the party immediately.

To make this tricky choice even harder, the NDP Candidate, Svend Robinson, was once our long-standing Member of Parliament. He was also the first Canadian MP to declare himself openly gay, but had left politics about ten years ago when he was convicted of stealing an expensive ring from an auction house. Now he was back looking for my support. From a philosophical point of view, I would tend to support the NDP over the Conservatives, but a jewelry thief?  I think not!

Among all these flawed choices, there was a young woman representing the Green Party.  She looked like the best candidate to me, but the Greens got less than 2,000 votes in our very populous riding last election. To me, this looked like throwing away my vote.

So there I was.

In other news — once a week I would pick up my granddaughter Cora after school and take her to her climbing class, about a 20 minute drive. All the street-side political signs turned our conversation to the election. I told her about my dilemma with Trudeau, and she told me they were having a mock election at her school, and that they were going to be learning about the issues and about what the parties were representing. I told her that if she could figure out who to vote for she should tell me! And we both laughed.

Over the next few weeks we talked about what she was learning. She told me if the election were held today, she would vote Green, and said it was mainly because of their position on environmental issues and climate change. I said her reasoning was very sound and that I thought young people would probably make better choices than their parents.

And that’s when the lightbulb came on!

I told her then and there that I would give her my vote in the real election, and that if she ever changed her mind from Green (she never did) just to let me know and I would vote for whomever she said.

I told my wife Rene what I had promised Cora and that I would be voting Green. Every time we discussed it, Rene would say something like, “You know Terry Beech (the Liberal) is the best candidate in our riding,” which I would counter with, “… but I just can’t support Trudeau!” Obviously she was still going to vote Liberal, as we always do.

On election day, as we left the polling station, she asked me, “Did you vote Green?”  I said “Yeah.”  And she said … “So did I.”  Boy, was Gubba happy!  And I couldn’t wait to tell Cora!

For the record, our Liberal candidate won, the jewelry thief came second, and the ousted religious zealot came third. Our Green candidate came fourth with over 4,000 votes — but more than double what she got last time.

My granddaughter is so proud & pleased that she was involved. She’s always been very adult and we treat her that way. And now she’s voting before her time and feeling the power of having her voice heard and counted. Of everything we’ve happily given her over the years, we all three agree this was maybe the best present ever.

~ = ~ = ~ = ~ = ~ * ~ = ~ = ~ = ~ = ~

Giving the gift of the vote.

We’re always reminded that “people died” so we could have the right to vote.  Well, now you can give it to somebody who doesn’t have the right — and nobody has to die!

It’s such a mind-flippingly beautiful twisteroo Prankster concept — giving the power to the purity of smart young people who see the world with unpolluted eyes to suss the good guys from the bad, the good ideas from the baloney.  Adults listening to pundits or their pub pals sure haven’t been installing the most evolved visionaries … or even functionaries.  So how ’bout if we go ahead and let some fresh voices in the choir.

Vote swapping is already something gaining popularity in both the U.S. and Canada the last couple elections — how about giving the gift of political engagement to someone younger who will get in the habit of using it including long after the gift-giver is gone.



You can read this story and a whole bunch more in my latest book — Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy:  Adventures in Politics 1980 – 2020.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —


→ 7 CommentsTags: ······

Brian Meets Biden

December 31st, 2020 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics, Real-life Adventure Tales

From Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy: Adventures in Politics 1980 – 2020

From the chapter — “Fun & Loving on the Campaign Trail 2020 — A Prankster’s Primary”.



The next day — Tuesday, February 4th, the day following the night of the Iowa caucus vote-counting debacle — I pulled off three rallies: Biden, Tulsi & Amy.  The order I caught the candidates all week was in direct correlation to the order they appeared in Nashua.

The New Hampshire primary is the New Orleans Jazz Festival for politicos.  All the best performers are playing all day long, every day, for a week!  The only challenge is figuring out which stage you wanna be at. 🙂

For this 12 noon Joe Biden rally I got there at 11.  This is key. Always arrive an hour early, wink-wink, jot a note.

. . . . .

One bizarrely cool thing this 77-year-old grandpa does is frequently sprinkle “man” into his dialogue like you’re listening to Dizzy Gillespie or something.  He so often seems like a patently unhip old geezer, but man, sometimes this cat sure can swing!

. . . . . 

After the rally was over, all the candidates (except Bernie) held meet-n-greets after their show (speech) — but Joe just sorta wandered over to the ropeline and started talking to someone, then just kinda began drifting along the front of the crowd, very impromptu.

A bald Secret Service type guy immediately came out to Joe’s side.  I’d seen him standing at the back earlier and he looked so much like the strategist and Lincoln Project cofounder Steve Schmidt, I thought it was him.

Then for some reason, Joe picked me out with his eyes in the second row — I wasn’t right on the ropeline.

I’m sure my visage reflected positivity.  And he looked over two people’s shoulders and stared me right in the eye and said, “What’s your name?” reaching out his hand.  I was kinda caught off guard, but … “Brian. . . . I was at your first inauguration.”

“Yeah, so were a lot of people,” he said, but not dismissively, rather, celebratory with his beaming smile.

“I hope to be at your next one,” I Irishly twinkled back.

And the other people in the thick crowd kinda moved aside as though he and I knew each other or something and gave us space.  “You’re the one guy in this race who’s gonna know what to do from day one,” I told him.

“And you’re the one guy who knows that.  Tell your friends,” he said with a laugh.  And just then a staffer showed up, so I handed him my camera, and Boom!


Go Joe!  Get us back to where we once belonged!


You can email me, or you can order Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy here.

Here’s the book’s prologue — “Let The Games Begin”

Here’s its Introduction — by The Beat Museum’s Jerry Cimino.

Here’s a full list of all the Adventures in Print spanning six books.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —


→ 10 CommentsTags: ····

Post 2020 Election Coverage Reviews

November 6th, 2020 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics


George Walker:
“Your election comments were brilliant and as good as anything by anyone I read anywhere.  You should be getting paid for this.  You nailed it all the way through.  Sometimes I would disagree with something you said, and then a couple weeks later I’d realize, ‘Oh yeah, Brian was right about that.’  And you wouldn’t just say things, you’d explain the thinking and facts behind it.  Anybody can just say stuff — but you would always back it up.  I looked forward to reading your new posts and comments every day.  Something would happen in the news and right away I’d wonder what Brian would have to say about it.  Professor Walker gives you an ‘A’ on your coverage.”

Cynthia Johnson:
Brian has been my virtual Xanax over the past few weeks.  Any calm I’ve felt is because I trusted his data and his take on things, even as I distrusted most conventional wisdom.  Thanks again, Brian.”
Thank you for all your hard work and brilliant cheerleading to keep us all sane and hopeful during this process.  Thank you for your devotion to Democracy and to America.  You are truly what we used to call in the HHH campaign way back in ’68 – A Great American (with dual citizenship!)  Much love to you my campaign trail road buddy.  We made it!”
To which Monica Bein replied, “Well said & totally agree about our Merry Politico buddy.”

Laurie Jones:
I am celebrating now.  Now.  Thank you Brian.  You helped me stay solid in the hard weeks and months so these last three days were not stressful.”

Cyndie Henderson:
Your posts are informative and down to earth.  Enjoyed the whole experience.”

Helen North: 
It’s great that you have kept this photo and you can now share with us all …. you did an amazing job Brian at keeping us informed …. and sharing your enthusiasm for politics with us …. you even educated me quite a lot in the last few weeks in regards to American Politics ….. great photo of you and the President of the United States !!!!”

Johnny Walker:
“Thank you for an astonishing effort at helping to make this remarkable day become a reality.  Thank you Thank you Thank you.”

Carrie McCarthy:
Thanks again Brian, for the continued honest and accurate reporting that was especially helpful to the sensitive souls that found watching traditional media too stressful.”

Eric Douglas Augustsen Mani:
I thought I should congratulate you in a campaign well fought for.  So many got out there and let their voices be heard and largely because of the efforts of people like you.  It is with that in this late Swedish morn I raise my cup of coffee to you and wish you CHEERS!!!  Peace & Love Our planet thanks you the children, the animals, the fish at sea, Mother Nature thank you!!!”
also — “YES!!! YES!!! Healthcare!!!  You did it Brian my beacon of light through he thick Orange haze of uncertainty!!!  A new day!!!”

Deanna Waters:
You have such a positive outlook on life and a sense of adventure.  Bravo!”

Brian Stevenson: 
Man, you and I got to meet someday Brian!  Let me say that your optimism and hope in your writings including your great new volume, and your current writings around this recent election, were and still are lighthouses for me.  Thank you.”



You can email me for a signed copy, or you can get the political Adventure book Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy here.

You can see a live show with readings from Blissfully Ravaged here —

You can read The Beat Museum founder Jerry Cimino’s killer Introduction to the book here.

You can read an excerpt from the book about New York’s reaction to Obama’s first election night here.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —


→ 11 CommentsTags: ··

Things You Can Do Beyond Voting

October 14th, 2020 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics

Yes — you can Vote — and maybe you’re already one of the record-shattering 11 million who’ve cast their ballot — but here’s some other fun cool proactive things you can do —>

Talk to your friends and neighbors and make sure they’ve got a plan to vote.

Check to make sure you’re registered — and check on behalf of your loved ones.

If you’re living outside of the country, you can still vote.  I’ve been involved with Democrats Abroad ever since I left Manhattan, and they’re a cool krewe.  Here’s how you can vote from abroad —

Talk to your third party leaning friends, or those who tend to cop out with “they’re all the same,” and politely explain how hate mongering and hate crimes have increased nationwide; about the lies told about a virus trump knew was deadly and how he turned mask wearing into something political instead of medical; how America has 5% of the world’s population but fully 25% of the world’s coronavirus deaths; how disenfranchising people’s votes is an active practice for an entire political party.

Put up Biden/Harris signs in your front yard or apartment window.
When one person does it, it often prompts others to, too.

You can find your state Democratic party website and info here —>

You can volunteer to phone bank for an hour from your home.  You’ll get to talk to some cool people you wouldn’t otherwise, and bank some votes that may otherwise have been squandered.

You can check in with people you know who don’t have a car and offer to drive them to their polling station.

You can send your own customized creative postcards if you wanna go old-school funky & personal.  There’s a cool group coordinating this called Postcards to Voters —

Also old-school but still effective — write a well-penned letter to the editor of your local newspaper.  Since less people do that now, you have more of a chance of getting printed, and/or having a nice published web link you can share around.

If you’ve got an extra $15 or more that you didn’t spend this month because you’re locked down, you can put it towards restoring sanity, empathy & respect to our governance.

You can call your senator and register how you want him or her to vote on the Supreme Court replacement.  Phone the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and an operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

You can do all of the above for the Senate candidates who are poised to stop the second most evil man in America, Moscow Mitch McConnell.

And that includes a particularly strong slate of women who would bring a different perspective to the law-making body:

Amy McGrath is McConnell’s opponent in Kentucky.

Sara Gideon is trying to unseat Susan Collins in Maine.

Theresa Greenfield is close to upsetting the trump yes-girl Joni Ernst in Iowa.

And Barbara Bollier is on the cusp of winning a Senate seat in Kansas of all places!

Plus there’s the very impressive Jon Ossoff taking on the Repugnant David Purdue in Georgia.

And Mike Espy is neck-&-neck with that crazy “I’d attend a lynching” Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi.

And then there’s the cool smart Democrat-aligned Independent Dr. Al Gross who may unseat the Repugnant in Alaska.

No matter if you’re in a solid blue or solid red state — let alone a swing state! — every single vote that goes into the national kitty is one more voice — yours! — that history will record as voting against and putting an end to this racist-in-chief.

You want to feel good on November 3rd.

You want to fully enjoy the moment this nation will celebrate on that night, and on January 20th, and every day going forward.
And you don’t want that gnawing guilt in the pit of your stomach that you know you didn’t really do your part.

And boy — it’s gonna feel so good when you do it. 😉

And it’s free!  And it’s fun!  And it changes the world!
And how often do you get to do that?

Feel free to copy and share, and add your own personal touch if you want.

And if anybody has any other good ideas beyond simply voting, by all means let me know.




Here’s where you can get my Political Adventures book Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy.

Here’s the first show for the book — a live stream on Facebook — where I perform parts of the book live —


Here’s where you can get the first book in The Beat Trilogy — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s the second book in the Trilogy — How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

Here’s the third book in the Trilogy — On The Road with Cassadys and Furthur Visions.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —

→ 11 CommentsTags: ···

Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy intro chapter

September 30th, 2020 · Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy, Politics

A lot of people got discouraged during 2016 — first the Berners supporting Sanders in the primary, then most of the nation with “the perfect storm” of the November electoral college disaster. Twice in my lifetime has this antiquated 1700s electoral college voting concept resulted in the loser of the vote becoming President. And both those times resulted in the #1 and #2 worst Presidents in modern history (by a long shot) that this country ever had the misfortune to have.

There is no other elected office in America you can win without winning the actual vote — and it just happens to be the most important one. Maybe this was a good idea back in the horse-&-buggy days, but it sure ain’t democracy now that everybody can actually vote.

Citizen participation goes back to … well, the Greeks (if you were a white native-born male 2,500 years ago), or women in America for the last hundred years, and minorities kinda mostly since 1965 (except since 2013 when the Roberts Supreme Court dishonorably and despicably rolled back the Voting Rights Act), and all of us who choose to be involved in the primary process since 1972. A lot of (particularly young) people seem to think the political world started in 2016 … and for them it’s been nothing but a disaster.

This is a terrible thing — and we’ve got to collectively work to re-engage and fix as best we can a flawed system.

In these pages I’m going to share some Adventure Tales about engagement in politics. It’s a helluva fun pursuit — and the winner gets to run the country! And speaking of running, there was a great documentary in 2007 called Run Granny Run about the inspirational Granny D from New Hampshire who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004 at age 94. In it she said a line I’ve repeated often — “Democracy isn’t something we have, it’s something we do.”

That should be carved into marble in Washington somewhere. At least I’ll carve it into this paper and maybe your brain.

Democracy isn’t something we have,
it’s something we do.”

And we’ve all got a lot to do! 4 in 10 Americans think Donald Trump is doing a great job as president. (!) This makes zero sense to 6 in 10 Americans, but what this book is going to hopefully help do is get those 6 in 10 back to being passionately involved in the grand experiment that is America.

We’re each here for only a small sliver of time. I have many friends who have been engaged in politics and governance for longer than I’ve been alive; and I’ve got many younger friends who are still going to be involved in it (hopefully) long after I’m gone. But we each have to be engaged proactive stewards for the wee window we’re here.

Perhaps this is a good time to talk about age. According to my birth certificate from Kenya, I mean Calgary, I am supposedly 58 years old as I type this in early 2020 — but obviously there’s been some mistake because I feel like I’m 18. And I think the same drunk clerk was in the records office for a while because I know a bunch of people older than me that will swear on a stack of On The Roads that they are not the age their birth certificate says they are.

One of them is my 80-year-old stage partner, George Walker, who just put a new roof on his house by himself while simultaneously rebuilding a 1939 Furthur bus called “Farthur” to take On The Road in 2020. I also perform regularly with Jack Kerouac’s principal musical collaborator, David Amram, who is a still-improvising & wailing jazz cat at age 89. And I finally tracked down and interviewed Locke McCorkle who had the house in Mill Valley where Gary Snyder and Kerouac stayed that prompted the Dharma Bums adventure, and he told me that even though he’d just stopped racing motorcycles at age 85, he felt like he was 35. So, everybody reading this book who’s under 90 years old, there’s no excuse for not having full engagement in this life.

And this also relates to the current leader of the Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi, who turned 80 in March 2020, as well as three of the four frontrunners in the Democratic primary — Joe Biden (77), Elizabeth Warren (70), and Bernie Sanders (78) — who are all bounding and bouncing with the same kind of vibrancy as Granny D or the jazz cat or the guy up putting on the new roof. 70 is the new 30, and 80 is the new 18.

The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh also turned 80 in March 2020 and is actively involved in Get Out The Vote (GOTV) actions — as are all the members of Dead & Company.

If smart people in their 70s and 80s have not given up hope, have not become cynical, are still working hard every day to make the world a better place, that should be instructive to anyone in their teens or twenties or thereabouts that giving up is not an option. Or wise. Saying of candidates and political leaders “they’re all the same” is a cop-out and abdication of the rights and powers of citizenry. Just ask Granny D.

I was born and raised in Western Canada in a world with a mocking disdain for everything American, and anything from the East. I didn’t fit in in the least — left as soon as my “finish high school” box was ticked, never looked back, and became an American by choice as soon as I was able. I served nearly 30 years in Manhattan, and am now back in the land of the red-&-white outside Toronto, with the minute-by-minute madness of Manhattan no longer taking up every day of every week of every year, and time and distance to reflect on that massive round-trip road trip.

Although Americans love to pride themselves in being “#1” at everything — their system is the worst for democracy. In Canada (and the U.K. and a lot of other countries) a national election is called — and the whole thing’s over in six weeks — and costs 1/1000th what 2020 will cost America, not to mention the thousands of hours of print and broadcast and social media reading about the bickering between any two people.

But what America has is characters, drama and stakes. And as a friend said at the end of yet another great Grateful Dead show back in the Jerry days — “That’s why I keep comin’ back.”

Who wins these elongated and compromised elections gets control of the biggest property on the Western World gameboard. And when I say “compromised” — what I mean is gerrymandering and voter suppression and the candidates’ requirement of taking big money from big business (codified by the anti-democracy “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision of 2010) in order to buy media ads and hire staff in 50 states to coordinate more fundraising to pay for more fundraising.

America is leading the world in democracy-destroying gerrymandering — at least in the 37 states that allow it — where the state government fences in all the voters of the opposing party to one or as few congressional districts as possible, then gives the whole rest of the state to themselves. This is reason #1001 why getting involved in your state government is as important as engagement in a presidential election. And I may as well say it — it’s actually more. And you know what’s even more important than your state government? Your city government. I know it ain’t sexy, and it ain’t gonna be all over the TV and social media, but who your mayor and city council is makes a bigger difference in your life than who your president is.

I know in people’s heads they see the face of the president as the political person overseeing their life. But the counterintuitive truth is your quality of life, in general, is determined far more by your city council than your federal congress. Whether your water’s clean, your power’s on, you don’t get robbed on the way to the store, you’ve got paved roads to drive on, whether the literal and metaphorical trains run on train, what your property taxes are (which generally takes more of your income than your income tax) — all that stuff that really is your life is more your city and state governments than it is federal — so if any of this sinks in at all let it be for you to give as much of a damn about who runs your city as Washington. Sadly, municipal elections usually have less than half the turnout of the already low federal election participation — which was 61% of eligible voters in both 2012 and 2016. Those people whose names you probably don’t even know, get elected by about 20% of your neighbors, and have more to do with your day-to-day quality of life than all the presidents of your life combined. Or thereabouts.

But of course if this book was about mayoral elections, you wouldn’t be reading it. It’s about “the show.” Which we love. It’s the big one … with the leg-kicking Rockettes and half-time rock stars and fireworks of exploding heads every night on the TV sets of America. Not the preseason. Not the regular season. Some people watch that stuff — but everybody tunes in for the playoffs. Which, in U.S. Presidential politics, means from the summer conventions through the November elections. Or many don’t really tune in until the first Presidential debate in late September (usually) — but it’s the same four years as every Summer Olympics when we wave our flag and wear our team jersey and celebrate the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.

And every election I’ve lived through was (rightfully called) “the most important election of our lifetime.” I dunno why that is or why it’s true, but it is. Well, maybe ‘96 wasn’t when Bill Clinton was just holding serve against the Roll–Hemp ticket. I mean, Dole–Kemp. We’re always at war or some damn thing. But in 2020 there is a proudly overtly racist fascist sociopath in the White House who’s cultivated a cult of straight-arm saluting devotees committed to re-electing “the greatest president we ever had.”

And so here we are.

25 different men and women from all demographics and backgrounds and philosophies threw their lives into the ring to be the 2020 Democratic nominee. At least this part of the grand game is a healthy democracy. Voters can choose from longtime socialists like Bernie, or longtime businessmen like Bloomberg, or practical centrists like Joe Biden, or non-politician outsiders like Andrew Yang.

I’ve been On The Trail on way or another since first seeing third party candidate John Anderson in 1980, to catching every candidate in New Hampshire in 2020 — 40 years On The Road as another Adventurer coined it — and you’re holding a good chunk of it in book form for the first time. Throughout this process of writing lots of new pieces up through March of 2020, I also found old clippings of stories past, old photographs & buttons, rediscovered old memories, and followed a paper trail of typed tales back to when computers were only props on Lost In Space.

Now there are trolls and bots and memes and apps, and as the old saying goes — “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on” — is more true than ever. We are all living through a redefining of what democracy and even “truth” is.

I’m glad you’ve joined in this Adventure, and hopefully reading this book will inspire you to get involved and create your own stories for eternity.



Here’s where you can get Blissfully Ravaged in Democracy.

Here’s the first show for the book — a live stream on Facebook — where I perform a part of this live —


Here’s where you can get the first book in The Beat Trilogy — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.

Here’s the second book in the Trilogy — How The Beats Begat The Pranksters.

Here’s the third book in the Trilogy — On The Road with Cassadys and Furthur Visions.


by Brian Hassett   —

Or here’s my Facebook account if you wanna join in there —

→ 16 CommentsTags: ···········